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TrustRadius Trust Talks: Why and How DataStax is a Customer-Driven Organization

April 19th, 2022 17 min read
When B2B companies seize every opportunity to capture customer feedback, they foster a customer-centric culture that drives business growth.

When B2B companies seize every opportunity to capture customer feedback, they foster a customer-centric culture that drives business growth. Thomas Been, a global marketing executive, 3x CMO (DataStax and formerly at Druva and TIBCO), and PR World Awards® 2017 Marketing Executive of the Year, has first-hand experience using Voice of the Customer (VoC) to drive business goals. In this video, Been explains how customer centricity is hard-wired into DataStax’s DNA and how it has founded much of their success.

Since its inception in 2010, DataStax, a data management company based in Santa Clara, California, has always put customers at the front and center of everything they do. They use active listening, customer insights, and a data-driven approach to create a “shared knowledge” that informs all of their decisions. This alignment across both customers and employees not only motivates and inspires a customer-centric culture, but also makes VoC part of their brand—not just for validation.

TrustRadius Founder and CEO Vinay Bhagat sat down with Been for a discussion on tactical techniques for building a customer-centric culture.

TrustRadius’ Trust Talks series highlights B2B executives’ approach to building a culture of listening to customers, activating the customer voice, and creating a customer-driven company.

Thomas Been

Thomas Been

CMO | DataStax

As a marketing executive with global experience, Thomas Been builds and manages marketing teams that establish brand awareness, market leadership, and revenue growth.

Been sees marketing as the most fulfilling domain because it requires combining art, science, and technology to succeed. He specializes in technology transformation as well as customer experience and interactions.

A U.S. resident with a French passport, Been has a global perspective that he has used in all his marketing roles.

Using VoC to Influence Company Culture

In this interview, Thomas Been shares not only why, but how DataStax does this and does it well. DataStax has two customer-centric values that they operate off of daily.

1. Obsess over enterprises (customers) and developers (end users)

Thomas states they really try to walk in the shoes of their customers, remove barriers, and even allow them to take shortcuts at times. Beyond their go-to-market strategy, it’s about creating value for their customers with their products. They have a system called Things I Learn (TIL) where they take notes and share them across the company—regardless of job function. That shared knowledge helps better support the customer while also providing key insight into their vertical or industry.

2. Take a data-driven approach 

It’s critical to get customer input, take insights, and apply them, but have you ever considered tracking their performance? By logging all meeting notes and calls, DataStax measures how often they engage with customers, and even how much time the executive team is spending with customers, thus creating alignment. Reviewing, discussing, and consulting their peer conversations creates this cycle of continuous learning and executing which is what DataStax gets the most value from.

Focus on Customer Interaction Without Making It An Academic Exercise

Once you’ve made customer-centricity part of your company’s core values, it may take a little fostering at first but Thomas says it will eventually become very natural. Whether working with customers directly or indirectly, the best way to make them a priority and front and center in the minds of your employees is simple.

“What the company is doing is putting structure on something that was always there from the beginning. It explains why we work with so many Fortune 100 and 500 companies and why we have such long-term partnerships.” Thomas Been [11:05]

Gamification

At DataStax’s All Hands meeting every week, they highlight the company’s best contributors in terms of the volume, but more so the quality, of customer interactions or TIL’s. As mentioned above, their data-driven approach allows them to take interactions from TILs, advisory boards, and what they like to call Executive Touch Points (ETPs), and rank them. And of course there are prizes to be won, every week!

Call Logging

Gamification coupled with the fact DataStax has a digital platform for logging meeting notes and recording calls, gives everyone in the company a mechanism for consuming and benefiting from their peers’ interactions. They focus on both negative and positive opinions from prospects, customers, and partners. These novel use cases are at the top of all meeting agendas, at the core of their priorities, and discussed by executive leadership when making any future plans.

Social Proof

In addition to consuming reviews from their current customers, DataStax takes a very programmatic approach to using reviews to understand the problems plaguing their prospective customer as well. Part of forging new partnerships is understanding, outside of the context and usage of your product, what problems you can solve for them today. Reaching a wider audience than just your current customers, not only informs product development but it provides an opportunity to address their needs as your product and the partnership evolves. 

“Part of the role of Marketing is to walk in the shoes of our customers and speak the language of our customers, but nobody speaks that language better than the customers themselves.” Thomas Been [14:18]

customer-driven

Diagram 1: Customer-Centric Cultures are Cyclical in Nature

Customer centricity has to be ingrained in company processes and values. A conduit for that is using your review platform to get customer feedback and thinking about how customers are engaging with your product, pre- and post-sales cycle.

Use Social Proof In Your Go-To-Market Strategy

Now that your customer-centric organization is up and running, it’s time to make social proof a key foundation of your go-to-market (GTM) strategy.  Thomas states review sites like TrustRadius provide a wider aperture to get customer feedback as well as have customer feedback highly visible to other prospects. 

Leverage Customer Stories

Reviews provide an easy way to get customer stories and tell it through the words of your customers. Buyers read reviews because they really want to experience your product before they buy it. Companies who use VoC to highlight customer stories provide prospective customers an opportunity to learn more about your product in an authentic and nonthreatening way. (Majority of tech buyers want to self-serve all or part of their buying journey.)

Reviews are also a great outlet for prospective customers to give their feedback on your product prior to even purchasing. For existing customers, reviews are a great 360° view of the state of your partnership. Thomas also states it’s important to remember that customers reading reviews don’t differentiate the vendor from the product.

Use reviews at scale and in various forms

When it comes to reviews, the right questions lead to the right content. Thomas says to pick review sites like TrustRadius that allow you to customize the questionnaire—giving you the ability to tell your own narrative. You can then validate that customer feedback throughout various stages of the buyer’s journey—top-of-funnel (TOFU), bottom-of-funnel (BOFU), and best yet, sales enablement. Thomas also says not to get hung up on vanities like scores and badges. Studies prove customers are willing to look past that. As a newfound customer-centric organization, you should be asking yourself, “Do you solve their problem?”

“Don’t fall into the trap of reviews being a demand generation play or even an awareness play. It’s a customer play.” Thomas Been [29:00]

Once you find the authentic VoC, the goal from there is to capture that success through the lens of the customer and in the right forum. “It’s not a pdf or what you put on your website, it’s also finding speaking opportunities for your customers because that’s going to be what really matters,” says Thomas Been. “That’s also a nice way for them to get a nice value from this exposure.” [19:43]

Weave Reviews Into Your Marketing Strategy

We know in order to become a customer-centric organization, ground-level tactical changes have to be implemented and they can’t feel like an academic exercise. We also know that with a little time and fostering, your organization will be capable of doing this very naturally. The key to success then becomes soliciting feedback from customers with the intent of shedding insight on your product for prospective customers—this can include the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. We also learned from this Trust Talks, that winning companies listen most intently to their customers and elevate that in their GTM strategy. They are also able to adapt to and meet market needs more efficiently. 

For buyers who haven’t heard of you or are preoccupied with other products, the best source of marketing material you have are reviews or social proof. It’s like paving your own personal path that leads the buyer straight to you. The difference is going to be the experience you provide, as a result of learning key insights from your customers. 

“It’s not that we’re saying go to a peer review site and you’re done. That’s not the way it works,” says Thomas Been. “ It’s wanting to learn all the time from your customers and then applying their insights.”

In today’s world, and with what we know about the new-age buyer, access to things like peer reviews and product use cases are the most authentic and non-threatening ways you can reach your prospective customers. As a customer-centric organization, this will also ensure your future success.

About DataStax

DataStax is the real-time data company. We help enterprises mobilize real-time data and quickly build the smart, high-scale applications required to become data-driven businesses. The DataStax Astra cloud service uniquely delivers the power of Apache Cassandra®—the world’s most scalable database—with the advanced Apache Pulsar™ streaming technology in a unified stack, available on any cloud.

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